For those of you in the know, Chinese Lunar New Year happened a few days ago. Harriet and I went to Trafalgar square to watch the Chinese New Year’s celebrations. Trafalgar square had been decorated with thousands of hanging red laterns, all bearing pictures of ornate dragons or chubby-cheeked cherubs in silk gowns. A couple of “bespoke”* noodle shops had set up at the periphery of the square, and several Chinese banks and/or insurance organizations were passing out leaflets at booths.
Here are a few things I learned at the London Chinese New Year’s Celebrations:
- The year of the dog is a prosperous year.
- The number 18 means “prosperity” and it was the 18th consecutive year of celebration of the London Chinese New Year celebrations. Double prosperity!
- It was the speaker’s 16th time doing this opening ceremony, and 16 in Chinese numerology means “smooth.” Smooth double prosperity!** Everyone’s going to work hard and get rich this year! (Is there ever a year in Chinese astrology where there’s only misfortune? Zero auspisciousness or prosperity??)
- Gung Hei Fat Choi is in fact Cantonese, not Mandarin. Most of the Chinese diaspora communities worldwide are made up of Cantonese people, which is why that was the phrase we all learned in primary school.
- Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has the ability to turn even the most banal procession of ceremonial speeches into a rally. He spoke without a script, pacing back and forth on stage with a hand mic, thrusting his pointer finger into the air to make, well, points.
- There are a lot of Very Important Dignitaries in London involved with the creation of the London Chinese New Year Celebrations.
- Each one of these Very Important Dignitaries feels obliged to make a short speech about how thankful they are about the thing. We were about an hour into the speeches now. The crowd was beginning to get antsy.
- There was going to be a lion dance, and the dancers would put on amazing lion costumes and jump on the poles in the middle of the square! How acrobatic! Hooray!
- Before the Lion Dance, you have to paint little red dots on the forehead, nose, eyes, and body of the big shaggy Lion suits hanging over the dancers. Okay! Interesting cultural thing! The crowd was beginning to get excited.
- Each one of the Very Important Dignitaries had to paint little red dots on the forehead, nose, eyes and body of the big shaggy lion suit hanging over the dancers, and also be photographed doing it. The crowd got much less excited, and even booed a little.
- The lions woke up! Hooray!
- The lions went backstage for a photo op. Booo.
- The lions re-emerged, and people came out with drums!
- THE LION DANCE IS AMAZING. ACROBATS WEARING LION COSTUMES JUMPED ON POLES.
- Everyone leaves. They’ve seen the lion dance. Happy Chinese New Year.
- Harriet informs me that in most of China, nobody does the lion dance.
- Neither one of us have jobs yet. Prosperity has yet to materialize. I still hold out hope for the year of the dawg.
- We buy 79-pence handmade noodles in a market and I make lemon chicken and bok choy.
*In the past two weeks I have seen the word “bespoke” more than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I didn’t even really know what it meant. “Unique”, I guess. But it’s a buzzword found everywhere — advertisements, boutiques, real estate listings, job postings, we even saw that somewhere offered ‘bespoke’ training. What?
**this was a few days ago now, and I do not remember which number exactly meant smooth, nor was I even sure he said the word ‘smooth’, since it was an English Chinese accent, something I have relatively no experience with. Do not cite me.